Take the 2-minute tour ×
Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm working on my first custom campaign for my players (I have previously run modules out of books and Dragon magazine), and I am wondering if I should read both DMG1 and 2 or if it's possible to just use DMG2 as a guideline.

Sidebar question: do I need to read any MMs for 4e or can I just use the online tools for that?

TLDR version: Is DMG2 with access to D&D Insider tools comprehensive enough for a new-ish DM to create dungeons, encounters, and adventures?

share|improve this question
For dungeons, there's a whole host of online generators if you need them. Also, there's a wealth of information on making adventures and dungeons unique and interesting, on various blogs and forums. Just google it :) –  Dakeyras Nov 29 '12 at 19:44
@Dakeyras I already read multiple blogs and actually went to undergrad for screenwriting, the story and pacing aspects are no difficulty (which is what most of what I've read seems to be about), but I am specifically concerned with balancing combat, setting appropriate traps, skill challenges, and environmental hazards as well as setting appropriate XP rewards for quests and other actions less tangible than pure combat. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Nov 29 '12 at 21:22
Ok, I didn't read that from the question. I'd still recommend using random dungeon generators for the map shape, but maybe that's just me :) –  Dakeyras Nov 29 '12 at 21:23
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You can get away with only DMG 2, though both DMGs offer valuable advice and you may get more value from the Rules Compendium (though balanced for Essentials, it contains the most recent advice on most mechanics).

The key point here is that you don't need either DMG to build adventures, especially if you have access to the D&D Insider tools like the Monster Builder and the Compendium and have already run published adventures. Strictly speaking, you can infer the guiding principles of both DMGs from those resources.

It's important to understand that the DMGs are more useful as guides rather than rulebooks. You can get valuable advice on what to do in different circumstances and how to build interesting, comprehensive adventures by reading both books. If you're not sure about how to design a campaign setting, not sure about how to build adventure hooks, not sure how to appeal to different personality types of players, not sure how to set dramatic pacing, not sure how to construct interesting battle environments, and so forth, both books offer good advice.

If you're not sure what to do, I'd recommend starting with DMG 1 instead of 2. It has a lot more basic, core advice and covers broader topics. DMG 2 is more of an update that addresses specific shortcomings of DMG 1, which is good when those shortcomings become apparent in your campaign but might not provide the underlying principles you need to construct your adventures. Ultimately, it's hard to predict which book will help you more without knowing which problems you'll run into more.

You certainly don't need any Monster Manual books if you have the online tools: every monster from those books is in the Monster Builder and every terminology element is in the Compendium's Glossary.

share|improve this answer
I figured the MMs were superfluous with insider account but wanted to check I wasn't missing out on advice from them. I do know general adventure and world building ideas, but I was leaning more towards DMG2 in my head when I asked this because of the updates to mechanics. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Nov 29 '12 at 18:11
I should note that many of the advanced combat rules in both DMGs were revised in the Rules Compendium, so that's also a very good source for mechanics. RC includes the most recent rules on Skill Challenges, Encounter Building, and has a new random treasure system. –  Soulrift Nov 29 '12 at 18:13
Are you speaking of the print compendium only? –  Joshua Aslan Smith Nov 29 '12 at 18:23
Yes, I meant the Rules Compendium book. The online Compendium (annoying that they named them the same thing, eh?) has the tables printed in the RC book, but not the textual guidelines that accompanies those tables. –  Soulrift Nov 29 '12 at 18:27
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.